Misselwood’s Cars Stayed the Concours Despite Downpours

WINNERS CIRCLE: Endicott College offers a stunning setting for the Misselwood Concours D’Elegance. The Best in Show Locomobile is fourth from the left with its doors open. INSET: Head Judge Bob DeSantis
WINNERS CIRCLE: Endicott College offers a stunning setting for the Misselwood Concours D’Elegance. The Best in Show Locomobile is fourth from the left with its doors open. INSET: Head Judge Bob DeSantis
LINDWOODSTREET.COM

Sometimes the rich guys who collect really nice cars get a bad name.

For example, it is said that they NEVER take them out in the rain. The only water these cars ever get might be a wash ‘n rinse, though most never accumulate anything more than enough dust to be removed with a special cloth and shining agent.

Well, let’s say that there’s an exception to every rule.

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That was the July 27 Misselwood Concours D’Elegance at Endicott College in Beverly.

The show began early in the morning with the first spectators admitted at 9 a.m.

There were in the neighborhood of 200 cars on display. Judging was underway.

The parking lots were packed. People were touring the Misselwood Estate, cruising the art collection, boutique, silent auction, and fashion show.

Then the rains came. We’re not talking sprinkles here. These were serious downpours.

Amazingly, no cars left.

“There’s no rain date at a concours, whether you’re here or at Pebble Beach,” says head judge Bob DeSantis, a passionate car enthusiast since the mid-‘70s. “Amazingly, given the forecast, only a few cars [that had registered] didn’t show. And that happens anyway.”

His team of judges, working in pairs, picked 14 class winners before a 1914 Locomobile Model 48 Berline was named Best of Show. It’s owned by Vermonter Bill Alley.

“It’s one of the best restorations I’ve seen in my life,” says DeSantis. “There’s no such thing as going to the dealer for parts for a car like this. Everything has to be made from scratch. The guy who did is was absolutely an artist. It was beyond magnificent.”

Misselwood uses the French style of judging.

Instead of using detailed sheets and awarding points for every aspect of the vehicle, it becomes, as DeSantis says, “the ultimate beauty contest.”

The quality of the cars, he says, has improved in each of the event’s five years.

“The first year, we were begging people to bring their cars,” he says. “Now car owners are asking us to be included.”

Unlike huge shows such as Pebble Beach or Amelia Island, Misselwood is, and likely will remain, a boutique show.

With a limited number of cars—and owners—friendships are made.

Endicott, with amazing beachfront property in the decidedly upscale North Shore region, has the No. 1 requirement for a concours—a spectacular venue. It also has concours founder Patrick Cornelissen, the director of operations at Endicott College and a host with an international background in hospitality and event planning.

The judging staff, led by head judge DeSantis and lead judge Rick Beecoff, continue a North Shore tradition dating back to the Castle Hill Concours.

“If you’re looking at two cars, one worth $3 million and one worth $100,000, you forget the value. It comes down to the one you’d rather take home,” he says.

“You also include the rarity of the vehicle, its history, and the quality of the restoration.”

“Years ago, at Castle Hill (a concours at the former Crane Estate in Ipswich), I had the privilege of doing the racing class. There was a 1934 Alfa Romeo entered. The car’s provenance was unparalleled. Tazio Nuvolari drove it to grand prix victories for a team headed by future Ferrari head Enzo Ferrari.

“Standing there, in 87-degree weather, I had goose bumps just absorbing the significance of that car. If not for that car, there may never have been a Ferrari.

“It won Best of Show. It wasn’t the prettiest or the finest car there by any means, but you can’t argue with history.”

Cornelissen was ecstatic about the Misselwood weekend.

“Saturday was phenomenal. We had a wonderful tour of special cars around the North Shore and a large crowd gathered to see them return to Misselwood.

Saturday night, concours car owners were invited to a private viewing and reception hosted by a collector in Boston.

“Everyone was wowed,” he says.

“And Sunday started great. I had only one call and one email for cars that cancelled.

“When it started to rain, I thought we’d see cars leaving. Instead, a few owners covered their cars and everyone retreated to the main tent. No one wanted to leave.”

When Dr. Wylie [Endicott president Richard E. Wylie] allowed us to consider having this venue, it was a dream come true for car guys like me and Rick [Beecoff],” says DeSantis. “The cooperation and support of the college is fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about Dr. Wylie.”

Does the future hold bigger things?

Probably not.

“We’re a boutique concours. We don’t have the space and resources to be a Pebble Beach, and we don’t want to be a $300 ticket event, either, even though all proceeds go to the college’s scholarship fund. We want to be well enough known so that the school and event are recognized around the country.

“We want that recognition and credibility. It’s what we’re striving for. Then, once you get it, it’s yours to maintain or lose.”

Five years ago, a rainy Sunday might have ended Misselwood before it got off the ground.

This year, it created a class of car owners who share the experience of “Remember the year when it poured in the middle of the day?”